How I let my dyslexia stand in the way of my author dream – until now!

Being dyslexic, I wasn’t able to write down all the stories I had in my head so, when I was a child, I’d act them out, play them out with my Barbie’s, or draw them as cartoons.

When I was 12 years old I started writing my first ‘book’. It was a story idea that I could see turn into a book, akin to the kind I was reading at 12, about being a confused girl on the verge of becoming a confused teenager. I still have the handwritten pages, done in a fat, colouring-in pen, as that was the most comfortable for my hand to use, and it’s so riddled with spelling mistakes, it’s hard for me to make out now.

I gave that story up for another idea at 13, where I started using a typewriter. I gave up on that idea at 14 for another one, which I typed on the old DOS system on the computer. Every year, I’d mature a bit more and so would my ideas and I’d start on a new one.

In 2009, being between jobs, I managed to write my first finished ‘book’, a children’s fantasy story. (On a technicality, a story is not a book until published, and you’re only a writer until published when you can then call yourself an author).

In 2015 I wrote my second fully finished story, an adult fiction called ‘Do You Believe in Second Chances?’ about relationships and how love can change over time.

I tried to get them published the old-fashioned way, by getting an agent, who would then approach a publisher, as that’s how it’s primarily done in the UK. However, I didn’t have much luck, and I must admit, I was quick to give up and move on to the next project.

People kept asking why I didn’t self-publish, on Amazon for instance, as an e-book. It was an idea – but a terrifying idea! I wasn’t earning a lot of money, as I was still studying, and couldn’t afford someone to design a cover for me, but more importantly, I couldn’t afford someone to spellcheck my story. I couldn’t very well publish a book, and expect people to pay for it, and then have it riddled with mistakes, now could I?

Then in May, Kindle was running a competition for an unpublished story over 50,000 words. I pulled ‘Do You Believe in Second Chances?’ back out and started editing and proofreading it as best as I could.

With only a few days to go, I read all the Terms and Conditions for the competition and came to realise you had to publish the book on Kindle to enter! That meant, setting up as self-employed, get a cover done, and put your book out there for sale, publicly!

I took the jump, and on the 19th of May 2017, I pressed ‘submit’ and my book went live! I was now officially a published author! After so many years of dreaming, wishing and hoping, I had made my author dream a reality.

The book will still have spelling mistakes throughout it and formatting problems as I’m such a novice, but I did it. Instead of hoping someone else would make my dreams come true, I went for it and did it myself.

Do you have a dream that you feel your dyslexia is preventing you from achieving? Tell us about your experiences, and what barriers you feel are in the way for you achieving this dream.  Or, if you have an example of removing these barriers to make your dreams come true, we want to hear about it by commenting below.

Guest blogger
Terese Smith

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The Power of Purple

On the morning of my recent exam I received a text from my mum saying, “Remember to take your purple glasses!” That wasn’t because she hoped I would wow the examiners with my unusual fashion sense; the colour of my glasses reduces the effects of the visual stress associated with my dyslexia. In natural light, they don’t make much of a difference to me, but in artificial light they help me to read faster. In exams, it’s important to read fast, and let’s face it, they’re usually held in rooms with terrible lighting.

Different colours work for different people, and they don’t work for everyone. My purple lenses were prescribed for me at a specialist optician, but you can also experiment with different coloured paper, or computer screen backgrounds. You can even get transparent coloured plastic sheets to place over your computer or papers.

Colours are only one of the resources that can help. When I was a teenager I also got extra time in exams, because I couldn’t write as quickly as my peers. (Not so that anyone could read it, anyway.) These days I don’t really need that anymore, and I don’t have that many exams fortunately. But if your or your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia you can ask the school about extra time for exams, or being allowed to use a computer instead of handwriting.

Of course, life isn’t just about exams. In everyday life there are little things you can do to it easier for yourself if you’re on the dyslexia spectrum. As well as different colours, different fonts can make things better or worse. Studies have shown that fonts without serifs are easier for dyslexics to read. (Serifs are the little decorative lines at the ends of strokes.) Putting text in italics, on the other hand, make reading much harder.

Some of the best fonts for dyslexics are Helvetica, Verdana and Courier, which are available in most word processing programs. You can write your own documents in these fonts. If someone sends you anything in a Word file (.doc or.docx) you can also change the font to whatever you prefer – and maybe add a background colour, too.

So that’s reading – what about writing? Text-to-speech technology is much more widely available than it was. By downloading some software, you can dictate to your computer instead of writing on it. And with smartphones it’s even easier. Most have built-in apps that let you compose and send text messages, or search the web, without typing a word: OK Google, how do you spell ‘convenient’?

(You can find out more about assistive technology in this recent post.)

You can also set reminders on your phone, of course. That’s useful if you tend to forget important appointments, or even just to get the mince out of the freezer. And there are techniques that can improve your memory, things like memory palaces and using vivid images to ‘fix’ memories. There isn’t room to go into those techniques here, but anyone, dyslexic or not, can learn to use the brain they’ve got more effectively. And as a final backup, you can always get your mum to text you a reminder 😉

What are your top tips for handling dyslexic life? Let me know in the comments below.

Guest blogger, Karen Murdarasi

Purple glasses_KM